Africa Wetlands (01.05.15)
Think African ‘wildlife’ and more often than not the Big Five (elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo, leopard) spring to mind. Exciting they certainly are, but for me one of the most fascinating wildlife aspects in Africa is the continent’s enormous and varied collection of wetland eco-systems.
Stretched across a total of 131m hectares altogether, often in remote areas, the many African wetland systems offer a truly remarkable biological diversity. The sustainability of such areas is crucial, as our changing climate and human sprawl continue to encroach on fragile wetland areas, seriously threatening the prolific birdlife above, as well as the water-based mammals (i.e. dolphins and manatees) below.
Although over the years I have been lucky enough to experience a number of the wetland regions across the continent, the abundance of wildlife congregating around an area inundated by sometimes as much as six metres of rainfall (as defined by Ramsar Conventon on Wetlands) never ceases to amaze me.
Aside from the multitude of water-based species, these Gardens of Eden boast a vast eco-system of insects, birds, big game wildlife and an estimated 2,000 known species of fish. Travelling through wetland areas I am always taken aback by the deafening silence, punctuated occasionally by distant birdsong and the odd splash of a jumping fish, wallowing hippo or falling fruit.
While accessibility varies from region to region, we at Nomadic Thoughts have consistently included some of our favourite wetland areas in client itineraries and have often been rewarded by excited reports that the wetland visit was the highlight of the holiday.
So varied are the landscapes that you travel by all manner of craft: canoe, mokoro, kayak, river-ferry, steamer and cargo-vessel. North, South, Central, Western and East Africa all benefit from huge diversities of wetland flora and fauna. For example, the freshwater explosion of life during the Okavango Delta’s (Botswana) maximum flood season is very different to the four major African river-based eco-systems of the Niger, Nile, Congo and Zambezi. Similarly the phenomenal chain of Rift Valley Lakes (including Lake Victoria, Turkana, Tanganyika, Albert, Mweru and Malawi) offer vastly contrasting landscapes, flora and fauna, to the coastal wetlands with mangroves, salt water intrusion and sea-scape formations.
I took all these images while travelling through various Africa wetland regions. With planning there is no reason why you should not be able to experience a similar diversity of eco-systems. With the very sustainability of such areas wholly reliant on good management, strong local protection authorities and overall ownership embraced by all stakeholders, we at Nomadic Thoughts believe tourism has an integral part to play.
After all, an African safari expedition is hardly complete without a wetland experience.